A group of St. John’s members took a historical tour of west Austin with an emphasis on black history stories in honor of Juneteenth. The tour began at the historic Neill Cochran Mansion on San Gabriel Street, which dates to well before the Civil War. Behind the mansion stands the only slave quarters known to remain standing in Austin.
Haskell House is a historic residence in Clarksville, an old freedman settlement in what is now west of downtown. The land was originally a cane thicket, purchased in 1871 by Mr. Clark, a former slave. Clark cleared the land and sold parcels to other freedmen for home sites.
Sweet Home Missionary Baptist is a church established in the Clarksville Freedman’s settlement soon after the founding of the settlement. It remains an active congregation 150 years after its founding.
Although Black people were forced out of west Austin by the City’s discriminatory 1928 Master Plan, the congregation to this day remains mainly majority African American, many of them descendants of early congregants. One of the congregants was nice enough to allow us in and give us a personal tour.
The leaders of St. John’s recently participated in two leadership training sessions. This is part of our efforts to develop skills that will help us better engage our community and create positive effects to improve the lives of our parishioners.
On May 20 and 21, six leaders attended a two-day Central Texas Interfaith training. Leaders learned about power, identifying leaders, and congregational development.
On June 17 and 18, six leaders attended the Hispanic Lay Leadership Conference with nearly 300 Hispanic Lay Leaders representing 16 congregations across the Diocese of Texas. They attended different workshops around children ministry, health advocacy, ministry through photography and plenary sessions on evangelism.
As part of our Juneteenth celebration, a group of St. John’s members and a few guests enjoyed a wonderful day on Friday at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in East Austin.
As some may know, George Washington Carver was a great inventor, agricultural scientist, and botanist. He is recognized as one of the most important scientists of the twentieth century. Here are couple of quotes from Mr. Carver:
"Education is the golden key to freedom".
"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we only tune in".
The Carver Museum and Cultural Center provides a wonderful, stunning space to explore the contributions of African Americans. In addition to permanent exhibits about East Austin, there are rotating installations which highlight African American artists. During this trip, we viewed photographer Jamel Shabazz's exhibit, and learned about George Clinton (musician and painter).
Laurie Williams' comments about the trip: ...."Our tour guide, Cathy, was charming and informative. The museum is beautifully organized. It rotates exhibits to keep you going back to find out what else you can learn."
I am excited to celebrate Pentecost with you. The Feast of Pentecost is one of my favorite feasts because we celebrate the birth of the Church. We celebrate the day in which Jesus' disciples receive the Holy Spirit and accept the invitation to continue the ministry that Jesus began. Jesus promised his disciples that they would not be alone after he left them. He promised them that the Holy Spirit would fill them with God’s power and God’s wisdom and She would be with the disciples to the end of time. It is this promise that gives us hope to continue Jesus’s ministry today despite or maybe because of the challenges facing our world.
The story we retell year after year reminds us all of how the Church began with a group of people who were from different backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures. They were gathered together for the Jewish Feast of Pentecost where they made offerings and remembered that God had freed them from Egyptian bondage. The first thing that happened to them after receiving the Holy Spirit was the capacity for them to be in conversation with each other despite their differences. This capacity makes it possible for them to become one people, the Body of Christ.
The story reminds of the powerful force of the Holy Spirit. This power of Spirit goes beyond the capacity to speak in different tongues. We know that the Spirit empowered Peter to stand before the doubters and proclaim the Good News. This same Spirit is now with us to guide and give us the courage to stand today and proclaim the Good News in a broken world.
I know that these last few weeks have been challenging for all of us. Mass killings bring to light the many ills of our society: the lack of sensible gun laws; the lack of quality, affordable, and accessible mental healthcare; and the lack of healthy relationships in our communities.
The Feast of Pentecost gives us the opportunity not only to remember the birth of the Church, but to recommit ourselves to Christ’s mission - to love God with all our hearts and with all our souls and to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can see the world as it is with all of its ills, and we can imagine the world as it should be. We as the body of Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit can work towards building God’s kingdom here on earth.
I am grateful to be part of this community to celebrate, to remember, and to encourage one another to continue the work that we are called to do as the Body of Christ.